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Cooking With Cannabis: former head banquet chef for Cavalier Hotel shares a culinary twist

Emily Oyer, a Virginia Beach native, recently won on an episode of the series "Chopped 420".
Credit: 13News Now
Emily Oyer recently won on an episode of "Chopped 420". Now she's making a name for herself by putting a twist on her classic culinary training.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — She considers herself a "whatever" chef.

Standing in the kitchen of her childhood home in Virginia Beach, Emily Oyer jokes that should she ever open a restaurant someday, it would be called "Whatever."

"People are always like, 'What are you in the mood to eat?' And usually, they're like 'I don't know, whatever,'" Oyer laughed.

It's that open mindset that's allowed Oyer to thrive, and grow in her line of work. 

Her time on the big screen

Oyer, a native of Virginia Beach, worked her way up through the culinary scene in the city before becoming the head banquet chef for the Historic Cavalier Hotel. Looking to re-start her life after a recent divorce, she recently accepted a role in Aspen, Colorado, with her soon-to-be wife following her shortly after.

It's there that her career arc took a vastly different turn. 

Emily received a direct message about an opportunity to appear on the show "Chopped 420", hoping for her to appear on their kick-off season. The Discovery-based show is a spinoff of the popular cooking competition "Chopped" but instead focuses on cannabis-infused dishes and ingredients. 

“To do the one-hour show, almost a 17-hour day," Oyer told 13News Now. 

After making it through three rounds of the competition, Emily was the last chef standing, winning Episode 2 of the first season, "Puff Puff Run."

“I had someone in front of me the whole time with a camera, the producer the whole time. The things I made, I can’t explain. My brain was working in a way it’s never been told to work before. You open that box you have no idea," Oyer said. 

Oyer credits this as the lightbulb moment that kickstarted her journey to being a chef that operates with an emphasis on cannabis infusions. 

Cooking with cannabis

On an August night in Pungo, Emily and her staff plated a six-course private event dinner, each dish coming with the availability to be finished off with a cannabis-infused oil. 

“It’s not about just grinding it up, throwing it everywhere. There’s a process to it," Oyer said.

Each drop of the finish contained a milligram of THC, and the dosing was controlled by the event staff. 

Diners had the option to select different ranges of THC dosing, depending on the kind of experience they wanted, from a "High Dose" option of 24mg total to a "Low Dose" option of 12mg total. 

“The misconception is people thinking you just shave over the top of stuff, it won’t do anything," Oyer said. 

Born and raised in Virginia, the event itself was surreal for her.

The dinner is only made possible by Virginia's recent marijuana legalization laws that took effect July 1. While buying and selling it remains illegal, possession of up to an ounce is now legal, even though it comes with a large number of conditions. 

It's as much about eating, as it is about education. 

“'This many percentages for THC, and this much fat.' It’s going to equal this much per tablespoon or teaspoon. It’s not about, 'Throw this in here, and throw this in.' It’s about math, how much you have, how much fat you have, so it’s not this extremely potent thing that will put you out.”

Oyer is using the momentum from the show to establish herself as a rising cannabis chef. Her newest venture, "Elevated Eats LLC." is a private catering initiative focused on cannabis-infused dishes. 

“I want people to know that there’s more to cannabis than just sitting down and getting high with your friends. There’s more to it, more to help your body and mind," Oyer said.